Eco-Friendly Wine Guide

The quality of organic, eco-friendly and fair-trade wines has come a long way since early efforts. The bonus? Most are inexpensive. Here’s our recommendations and guide for decoding the labels and selecting the best.

Organic wine

Photographer Becky Luigart-Stayner

What it says: organic

What it means: As with any organic product, these wines are produced without chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, artificial ingredients, genetic engineering, fungicides, preservatives, or irradiation. They must contain less than 5 percent nonorganic ingredients, or none whatsoever to be labeled “100% organic.”

Our Recommendation: Our Daily Red California Red Wine ($10)

Tastes like: earthy, easy drinking basic red

Serve with: your favorite steak, hearty pasta dishes

Wine made from organic grapes

Photographer Becky Luigart-Stayner

What it says: made from organic grapes

What it means: Not all wines made with organically grown grapes can be labeled “organic.” That’s because some winemakers add sulfites as an antibacterial preservative to extend shelf life (and enable wines to ship long distances), disqualifying it for the organic label. Other winemakers choose not to incur the expense of certification.

Our Recommendation: Bonterra Vineyards Viognier ($18)

Tastes like: apricots, tropical flowers, and a bit of citrus.

Serve with: seafood, Asian or Indian food, smoked seafood

Wine with no sulfites added

Photographer Becky Luigart-Stayner

What it says: no sulfites added

What it means: Sulfites appear naturally in many fermented foods and are added as preservatives to kill bacteria. Winemakers often add sulfites to prevent oxidation that would spoil wines. 100% organic wine does not have added sulfites, though they may have occurred naturally.

Our Recommendation: Frey Biodynamic Syrah ($17)

Tastes like: plums, boysenberries

Serve with: beef, hearty pastas, and chocolate

Biodynamic Wine

Photographer Becky Luigart-Stayner

What it says: biodynamic

What it means: Biodynamic organic winemakers use an astronomical calendar―with positions of the moon and planets―to determine planting and harvesting dates (like the planting tables in The Old Farmer’s Almanac). Homeopathic concoctions are used in the vineyard and soil.

Our Recommendation: Copper Hill Pinot Noir ($20)

Tastes like: wild cherries, stone fruit

Serve with: salmon, veal chops, roast duck

Fair Trade Wine

Photographer Becky Luigart-Stayner

What it says: fair trade

What it means: The laborers producing the grapes and wine receive living wages and work in a healthy and safe environment. Fair trade certification is not currently available for domestically produced wines, but appears on certain wines from South Africa, Chile, and Argentina.

Our Recommendation: Goue Vallei Classique Blanc ($12)

Tastes like: apples, guava, and melon

Serve with: oysters, shrimp, fish

Vegan-friendly wine

Photographer Becky Luigart-Stayner

What it says: vegan friendly

What it means: Animal products are not used to produce the wine at any stage. Some vegetarian producers use albumen (egg white) or casein (a milk by-product) for clarifying or reducing sediment, but vegan friendly wines use a clay-type product for clarification.

Our Recommendation: Can Vendrell Cava Brut Reserva ($20)

Tastes like: lemon, peaches, nuts

Serve with: oysters, sushi, smoked salmon

Yellow+Blue Malbec

Photographer Becky Luigart-Stayner

Wine in a box?

Yes, and it’s yummy! It’s called Tetra Pak―a lightweight, shatter-proof alternative to wine bottles. It differs from other boxed wine containers, which are plastic bags inside corrugated cardboard boxes. Both types allow more wine per container weight than bottled wine and generally cost less to transport.

Our Recommendation: Yellow + Blue Malbec (1-liter Tetra Pak, $12)

Tastes like: berries, plus, and a hint of spice

Serve with: burgers, lamb chops, chili, roast chicken

Smart Wine Buys

Photographer Becky Luigart-Stayner

More Smart Wine Buys 

Our Recommendation: Lolonis Winegrower Selection Petite Sirah Sisters Blend ($32)

Tastes like: blackberries, caramel, plums

Serve with: lamb, beef, game

Our Recommendation: Robert Sinskey Vin Gris of Pinot Noir ($22)

Tastes like: berries, flowers, and melon

Serve with: whole roasted fish, antipasto platter, chilled soup

Printed from: